Steamboat musician Michael Jonas an integral part of the local bluegrass canvas
September 21, 2012
Steamboat Springs — It looked effortless for Michael Jonas.
He sat on a fence in a Steamboat Springs park during his first fall in the Yampa Valley, picking his mandolin seemingly in time with the ruffle of the yellow and red leaves.
But for the easygoing bluegrass musician, who is quick to smile and humbly offer credit to fellow musicians for his successes, none of it came without effort.
Unable to shake the music bug he caught at a young age, he went back to school years ago to study music theory and learn the fundamentals of his craft. Singing didn't come naturally, either. He sat in his room listening to himself on a tape recorder over and over again.
"There's no escaping it," Jonas said about music, which has taken on a significant and professional role in his life. "It's always been a part of my life. It wasn't so much a conscious decision as it was the missing link; it was the answer."
When Jonas moved to Steamboat with his wife and two children nearly a year ago, he was pretty sure he would continue to play. He just didn't know how much.
Now, he's a regular on the scene, playing with Rural Wreckage and Ragweed as well as filling in as a mandolin player for Old River Road.
"It's nice this town is so open musically," he said. "The goal is just to make good music.
"You have to let the music talk."
Jonas will debut his band, the Wayward Mountaineers, next week during Bluegrass Wednesday at Carl's Tavern.
At 7 p.m., Jonas will take the stage with a trio of pickers he met at RockyGrass, a Front Range acoustic music festival he's attended 10 times. Along with Jeff Kazmierski on bass, Patrick Padgett on banjo and Bob Masters on guitar, Jonas already has played several Bluegrass and Bloodies appearances Sundays this summer at State Bridge. Wednesday will be the band’s first appearance in Steamboat, and Jonas said it will play mostly bluegrass standards.
He hopes to get the band together someday to learn the song the band was named after, a Michael Jonas original.
Songwriting started early for Jonas, who tinkered with his Casio keyboard while growing up in Missouri. Later, he started playing the electric bass in school, but it was the Jerry Garcia band Old and In the Way that led him down the picking path.
"I got tired of all the noise," he said. "The tone in these acoustic instruments is so much better."
And his passion might be genetic.
Though he’s not in kindergarten, 4-year-old Wyatt Jonas already has shown an interest in singing, repeating back the Kate Wolf melodies his mother sings to him with a near-perfect pitch.
It wasn't long after the Jonases moved to town that Michael Jonas met a few other pickers and, through the local network, was introduced to local musician, songwriter and booking agent Trevor G. Potter, who invited him on board to play in a new project called Rural Wreckage.
"The thing about Michael is he's kind of the full package," Potter said. "He's a great singer, instrumentalist and writer. Anyone who possesses all of those is pretty worthy. He's a real in-the-pocket picker as far as mandolin and guitar."
Jonas said his songwriting still is a bit of a secret, and so is the fact that he plays fiddle.
But those skills are starting to come out of the woodwork.
"We've been playing quite a few gigs, so we're working some of his songs into the mix," Potter said.
Rural Wreckage plays Sept. 28 at Old Town Pub.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com